Rankin Addresses Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus
by David Price (September 2010)
University Park, Pa. -- The U.S. Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus held a hearing Thursday, September 23, 2010, to hear details of a new campus climate report co-authored by Sue Rankin, associate professor of college student affairs in Penn State's College of Education. The report, "The 2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT People," is the most comprehensive national report to date chronicling the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals at colleges and universities in the United States.
Rankin detailed the report to the Caucus with her co-authors—Warren J. Blumenfeld of Iowa State University and Genevieve N. Weber of Hofstra University, as well as Penn State student Yvette Lerma and Iowa State student Jacob Wilson.
The report, just released by Campus Pride's Q Research Institute of Higher Education reveals a "chilly" campus climate toward LGBT students, faculty, and staff, including high rates of harassment and a lack of safety and inclusiveness in policies, programs, and practices.
"After 20 years of teaching and writing on LGBT equality, I very concerned that in 2010 college students, faculty, and staff still experience a climate that interferes with their ability to work, live, and learn on campus," Rankin says. "I have seen amazing strides since I first arrived on Penn State’s campus, but this report indicates that we still have some work to do. This comprehensive report provides substantive research and the necessary recommendations to assist administrators, educators, advocates, activists, student leaders, and elected officials in making university and college campuses safer and more accepting for all of their community members."
Among the study's findings, the report notes that settings of college campuses have improved for LGBT individuals over the years; however, LGBT faculty, staff, and students are 23% more likely to experience harassment than are their heterosexual counterparts, and nearly two-thirds of LGBT respondents reported being the target of derogatory remarks. Because of the challenging climate, one-third of LGBQ and transgender students, faculty, and staff have seriously considered leaving their institution due to the challenging climate.
"The importance of that is the negative influence that it has on student development and learning and on faculty and staff development and retention," says Rankin.
This new report on LGBT climate in higher education supports prior research on LGBT youth, which indicates that LGBT in kindergarten through high school encounter a significantly higher rate of harassment, discrimination and bullying than do their heterosexual peers.
After presenting to the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, Rankin then delivered a similar briefing to representatives of the U.S. Department of Education.